Maple (Mountain Maple)
Origin and Usage
From the 3 indigenous types of
maple, the mountain maple has the best qualities that are
needed in the manufacture of music instruments. The acer
pseudoplatanus (the botanical name for the tree) with 5
fingered leaves and the golden yellow autumn colour, grows
in the mountain forests of Northern Spain to Caucasus, from
northern Italy and Yugoslavia to the Harz mountains in
Germany at height of over 800 metres.
The brightly coloured maple wood has since time immemorial
been highly valued in its usage as a wood for furniture,
also as a veneer and in its natural form in interior
building work. In addition Maple is used extensively in the
household and kitchen. Generally maple is the preferred
choice of wood turners, woodcarvers and wood sculptors. In
the manufacture of music instruments there are two
traditional areas of usage: the stringed and plucked
instruments with their backs, sides, necks and bridges and
the woodwind instruments, particularly the bassoon and the
Production, Ecology. The machining and processing
Larger, almost pure stocks of maple are found in the
chalk alpine areas, but it is also to be found growing
singularly or in groups in the middle to high locations.
The maple is cared for and cultivated in normal forestry
conditions apart from in Nature Reserves, where it is
left to grow naturally. This means that suitable trees
are chosen depending on their value. To ensure further
production maple is planted, and of course also
naturally seeds itself. Good forestry management means a
diversity of tree types are planted enabling a balanced
and stable tree-growing environment.
The Woodcutter specialising in seeking out the best
maple trees for music instruments buys the logs direct
from the forester. He organises the transport and cuts
the suitable logs into squared timber which is the first
step in the process to the further manufacture of the
recorder and bassoon.
Attributes and characteristics of Maple
Maple has a fine texture, displaying a crème to almost white
colour, which later darkens to a golden shade. The wood
possesses a uniform and compact structure, and for use in
woodwind instruments the mature pieces with close annual
ring circles are chosen. Such pieces are of moderate to
medium weight, but tough and dense. They are easy to work
on, allowing clean cutting, turning and polishing.
Furthermore maple has the necessary stability to withstand
changing conditions of humidity. Mountain maple is also
ideal for the absorption of oil or paraffin as a further
prevention to adverse effects of excessive moisture and
excellent results in staining; polishing, and varnishing are
achievable on the outer surface. Its relatively lightweight
makes it ideal for the manufacture of bassoons and the
mountain maple wood aids in the production of a full bodied
and mellow sound.
Bassoon making at Püchner house
The woodwind instrument maker obtains his wood from specialist importers
and saw mills in the form of rough-cut square blocks. When
cutting the blocks the saw worker takes careful account of
the final dimensions of the instrument joints, in order to
ensure the most efficient use of this valuable raw material.
Before the wood is laid out to be dried and seasoned the
blocks are drilled with a longitudinal rough bore hole to
assist more equal drying from within. The process of natural
drying lasts a minimum of 18 years at Püchners,
although the chosen period differs from firm to firm.
The working of the individual instrument only begins after the
seasoning phase is complete. The wood sections are now turned,
refined, polished and impregnated with linseed oil. Precision
reproduction machines are now used to cut the toneholes and
post-locating holes, and the mechanism is installed for the first
time. After the keywork installation is completed it is all removed
again. Once this is done the individual wood joints are fitted
together to make a single instrument. Next follows the crucial work,
the final turning of the interior bore, which is the soul of the
instrument and which will authoritatively determine its quality.
The mechanism has meanwhile been polished and plated, and
once fitted with impact-damping corks and leathers and
provided with pads it is reinstalled for the final time.
After conclusive tuning, testing and voicing of the
instrument, during which the requirements of the musician
are always paramount, the bassoon is ready to be discovered
by its eventual player.
We wish to thank Firma Nagel, Hamburg for their friendly
help in providing parts of the above text and Graham Salvage
and Jonathan A C Small for their translation into English.
“Wood as raw material for musical instrument making”,
Dr.Hans Georg Richter, Moeck Edition, Celle